Waris Dirie

Author and Activist


Her life, her achievements, her foundation A NOMAD GIRL IN SOMALIA Waris Dirie was born into a nomad family living in the Somali desert near the border to Ethiopia in 1965. At the tender age of five, she was forced to undergo the inhuman procedure of female genital mutilation. This horrible tradition is still practiced in many countries around the world today – by both by Moslems and Christians. According to records kept by the United Nations more than 8000 girls become victims of this heinous crime every day. At the age of 13, after being forced to marry a man who was old enough to be her grandfather Waris fled her homeland. After a daring escape and many tribulations, she arrived in London and initially found employment as a housemaid and later at a McDonald's.   SUPERMODEL AND BONDGIRL At the age of 18 she was discovered by one of Britain’s leading fashion photographers, Terence Donovan, who thought she would be the perfect model. She quickly became an international celebrity. She moved from London to New York and achieved international acclaim as one of the first ‘”Supermodels” in the US. She was the first African woman with an exclusive contract for a worldwide Revlon campaign, the worldwide biggest cosmetic company. She worked for all famous fashion brands and was seen on fashion magazine covers from Vogue to Marie Claire. She was given a part in a James Bond epic, the blockbuster “The Living Daylights”, starring Timothy Dalton as 007. The BBC produced a documentary on her unique career titled “Waris Dirie - A Nomad In New York”. In an interview for the magazine Marie Claire Waris Dirie spoke out for the first time about the cruel tradition of FGM and her own fate. An enormous global wave of sympathy and protest ensued. Waris Dirie was invited to appear as a celebrity guest on a popular US-talk show to tell her life-story. This helped inspire Waris to initiate her personal global campaign against FGM.   UN SPECIAL AMBASSADOR AND CAMPAIGNER In 1996 the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, appointed Waris Dirie a UN Special Ambassador for the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation. She has traveled the world extensively for the UN, participated in numerous conferences on the subject, met with national leaders, Nobel Prize-winners, international stars, gaining support for this important issue as well as generating large donations for the UN.    DESERT FLOWER – THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER 1997 Harper Collins in New York published Waris Dirie’s biography “Desert Flower”. The book quickly became an international bestseller.

Waris Dirie was a Counsellor at One Young World Summits: 2011 in Zurich.